Live in San Francisco at Stern Grove

Not all of bassist and producer Bill Laswell’s musical ideas are great. Remember that awful disc of ambient Bob Marley remixes a few years back? Many of them are, though, and this one is among his best: take a small number of top-notch singers and instrumentalists from various regions and musical traditions, throw them together in a relatively free-form context with the support of Laswell’s sweetly propulsive basslines, and let the funk fly. Participants include tabla virtuoso Zakir Hussain, sarangi player Ustad Sultan Khan, percussionist Karsh Kale, turntablist DJ Disk and others. Though this live outdoor performance isn’t quite as consistently compelling as the ensemble’s studio effort (Tala Matrix, on the same label), it does use the live setting to explore some of its complex rhythmic and melodic themes more deeply. Highly recommended.